A Tasmanian couple have downsized their farm on Bruny Island without losing an acre of land.

Key points:

  • Miniature animals were originally bred for children at a day care centre
  • Some breeds are approaching ‘micro’ classification
  • The farm was opened to the public after tourists began jumping the fence for a selfie

Instead, 30 years of selective breeding has produced a menagerie of tiny farm animals ranging from miniature American Mediterranean donkeys to African pygmy goats, and Galloway cattle only 96 centimetres high.

Frances Ashlin runs the farm with her husband John. She said the animals were originally part of a childcare centre she began in the early 1990s on the island.

Often, Mrs Ashlin would take the cuddly — and compact — animals to childcare for a visit.

“Animals and children just go together,” she said.

A man and woman in coats smile at camera as they stand in a grass paddock backed by tall eucalypts

Frances and John Ashlin have been breeding miniature animals on their Bruny Island property for three decades.(

ABC Rural: David Barnott-Clement


“Lots of little ones … wouldn’t even go near them, they’d actually grab your leg and shake.

“But by the end of the few months or so they’re going up and cuddling them.”

And with the average dairy cow reaching about 1.8 metres high, small children needed animals of a similar stature.

“Starting off with the small [animals], it’s not quite as intimidating,” Mrs Ashlin said.

A miniature brown and black goat gets a scratch on the head by a hand reaching through a fence

Mr Ashlin says miniature breeds are better natured and therefore more suited to being around children.(

ABC Rural: David Barnott-Clement


Thirty years of experimentation

While they don’t have any formal training, the couple do have a can-do attitude, and now have animals approaching micro classification — the next step down from miniature.

“We just sort of experimented with them and different-sized animals,” Mr Ashlin said.

“Made a few errors here and there, but it’s worked out pretty well.

“We’ve got quite a few little animals now and people seem to enjoy them very much.”

A woman gives a chin scratch to a small black cow in a paddock

Some of the Galloway cattle at the Ashdale Miniature Farm are approaching micro classification.(

ABC Rural: David Barnott-Clement


Mr Ashlin gestures to a fluffy white cow wearing a blue pet halter.

Tourists jumping fences

The couple have decided to open up their property to tourists after passers-by began to line the front fence. Mrs Ashlin said the farm was hard to resist for those looking to get a selfie.

A small, fluffy, grey haired donkey with large ears and a white muzzle looks at the camera

Miniature American mediterannean donkeys are particularly popular among tourists.(

ABC Rural: David Barnott-Clement


“That’s what really started us off, sort of thinking, ‘Oh well we’ll open to the public, there seems to be a lot of interest.'”

Despite the farm’s roadside popularity, getting the new business off the ground hasn’t been easy.

Mrs Ashlin said a long approval process and winter rains saw the farm open during the middle of the COVID pandemic, and with muddy paths.

“I thought ‘Oh well, just keep going now, we’re halfway through the approval process.’

Eee-awwww! Tiny livestock a huge hit with selfie takers
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